Dealing with Insomnia

Has this happened to you?

You lie there. You toss and turn, or just stare at the ceiling. Your body is tired, but your mind is wide awake. Thoughts of what you need to do tomorrow flash across your mind’s eye.

You wonder whether it’s a good idea to get up, but you decide to continue lying there.

Lying there, and trying to sleep.

We’ve all been there. Every human on earth sometimes experiences sleepless nights. But for some of us, insomnia is an unpleasant nightly reality.

In this article (and accompanying video), we’ll address some of the causes of insomnia, and provide a number of tools that may help make it a thing of the past.

We will look at two types of insomnia, and offer a variety of ways you can treat it. Note that this is not medical advice, but a discussion of methods that many have found to be helpful. Always check with your physician before utilizing any of these techniques or supplements. 

It’s helpful to think of sleep as an essential nutrient, like food or water. Although we never hear anyone bragging about how little protein they eat, we often hear people bragging about how little sleep they get.

Although individual need vary somewhat, it’s fairly normal for the average person to need about seven to eight hours of quality sleep per night. Quality sleep is sleep that is uninterrupted for several complete sleep cycles.

Sleep Cycles and Insomnia

A sleep cycle occurs when we drop down through different brainwave patterns; typically alpha down to delta. A full sleep cycle permits both dreaming and in the deeper levels of sleep, physical healing. A cycle takes about ninety to 100 minutes. In order to awaken refreshed, it’s best to awaken naturally, without an alarm. Although this isn’t possible for many of us, awakening with an alarm means we are still in a sleep cycle, and will often feel groggy upon awakening. 

The first type of insomnia we’ll talk about is the kind you get when you first go to bed. You want to sleep and may even be quite tired, but wind up lying awake for about an hour or more. People who like awake like this, often report that their mind was racing, as they planned the next day. They typically make bright, colorful pictures in their mind, and comment on them in a rapid voice.

Focus on feelings

Amazingly, this simple solution has helped many people: Change your focus from those bright, flashing pictures, to your physical body. Get really comfortable, and slow down your internal voice, making it slow and sleepy. This is often enough to fix the bedtime insomnia that afflicts many people. Give it a shot. Switch off the pictures and slow down the inner voice, and tell yourself how comfortable and sleepy you are. It sometimes works in just a few minutes!

There’s another kind of insomnia that is also very common. This is the waking up at about 3am, and lying awake for an hour or more. People report that they finally fall asleep just before the alarm goes off, and are exhausted all day.

A lot of insomnia sufferers have had great results with a homeopathic medicine known as Nux Vomica, also known as Colubrina. It’s inexpensive, and available in many health food stores, and even in some drug stores. You take it if you awaken and notice it’s around 3am. That might be enough to enable you to quickly fall asleep again.

Many people swear by melatonin, a hormone that helps you stay asleep. It’s available as spray or tablets. Although it’s an over-the-counter medicine in many places, it should not be taken frequently, and even then, only with your doctor’s full knowledge and permission.

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But what about the causes of insomnia? 

What you eat or drink can have a huge effect on your sleep patterns. Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, and even chocolate, can stimulate your brain, and prevent you from sleeping well. Red wine can also be bad. This is because red wine contains tannins, which affect the body like histamine.

Chemicals known as excitotoxins, including MSG and aspartame, may also stimulate the brain and prevent sleep. You might find it helpful to remove all of these substances from your diet and see if you sleep any better. You can then reintroduce them gradually and see if they affect you negatively.

Generally, it’s probably not a good idea to eat anything near bedtime. The carbohydrates in fruit juice, toast, or cookies can cause an insulin release and a drop in blood sugar, which will wake you up again. In any case, you need to be sleeping, not digesting!

Avoid screens just before bed!

One of the most common causes of insomnia usually goes unnoticed. We’re talking about screen time.Television, computers, smart phones, and tablets all produce a light frequency that leans toward the blue end of the spectrum. This mimics sunlight, and shuts off your own natural melatonin release in your brain. If you must stare at a screen before you go to bed, make sure it’s on night settings, which leans toward the red end of the spectrum, and is unlikely to keep you awake.

Self hypnosis for insomnia

Another method for overcoming sleeplessness is a form of self-hypnosis or meditation, which are essentially the same thing. In this method, you lull your brain into a relaxing state, while keeping your body still. The first method is to note the timing of your own breathing. Without altering it at all, simply say the word sleep in your mind, every time you exhale. Despite its simplicity, this is a very powerful method for slowing the brain down, and letting sleep happen naturally.

A variation on that technique is to simply note the feeling of your breathing. To do this, concentrate your attention on your nostrils. Notice that they feel cool when you inhale, and warm when you exhale. If your mind wanders, just bring it back to the shifting temperature and keep noticing the air flowing in and out. It’s another really easy way to slow your mind and fall asleep.

So if whether you’re occasionally sleepless, or it’s a nightly concern, we hope you find something in this article to help you. By addressing what and when you eat and drink, and applying one or more of these methods, you might find that insomnia is a thing of the past. 

Free Brain Software E-Book

Mike Mandel's "Brain Software" e-book shares the same communication strategies that he teaches in live keynote presentations. This is our most popular free resource and we want you to have it.

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